Early summer hatchings

Time passes. Before one can realize that summer has started it is usually already over. Late spring and early summer was particularly busy this year since we had to arrange our move to our new home. At the same time also most of the chrysalises that overwintered, either in our fridge or on the balcony, hatched.

I rarely managed to keep the camera close by, most commonly I only saw some butterfly that hatched before taking off. However, I did get a couple shots from some of the species. It was nice to see that the Lime Hawk-moth (Mimas tiliae), which our daughter found as slightly injured caterpillar, managed to complete the metamorphosis.

Like the year before, I also had a couple Poplar Hawk-moths (Laothoe populi) overwintering. It was great seeing the difference in both sizes and coloring across individuals. The Small Emperor Moths (Saturnia pavonia), which I received as eggs from a friend, were true beauties. I remember one afternoon when I returned from work, there was quite some buzzing on the balcony. Due to a couple females that hatched the same time they managed to attract multiple males that were flying around. I’ll get back with some more photos from this species later on.

Migrant mastering winter

People say the Large white (Pieris brassicae) can’t normally survive the cold winters in Finland. Commonly, the butterflies migrate north in late summer and potentially breed after arrival. Nevertheless, in late 2015 I managed to find masses of caterpillars and took exactly 27 of them home for raising. In late spring 2016, every single one hatched.

I kept about half of the overwintering chrysalises in the fridge. The rest spent the entire winter on a balcony in the shadow, exposed to temperatures as cold as -25 degrees Celsius. The chrysalises from the fridge were also placed on the balcony in spring to get them hatch at the same time when the conditions are right.

My first surprise was that the caterpillars did not have parasites at all. The second surprise, of course, was to see the adult butterflies hatching. This are great results, proving the species can handle the conditions in the North and is able to overwinter locally.

Caterpillar of the Purple Emperor

The two caterpillars of the Purple Emperor (Apatura iris) that are currently feeding on potted willow on our balcony develop nicely. On the coming weekend it’ll be time for another attempt to find caterpillars of the Purple Emperor or, even better, the Lesser Purple Emperor (Apatura ilia).

Early hatcher

I’ve kept a part of the overwintering chrysalises in the fridge this year. The other part spent winter in the shadow on our balcony. Unfortunately, today I had to realize that some of the butterflies developed too fast in the fridge. Despite of the stable temperature around 5-7 °C the one and only Green Hairstreak (Callophrys rubi) I had hatched. Way too early. The current outside temperature is around the freezing point, and the forecast does not show any spring weather yet. Also the Orange Tips (Anthocharis cardamines) look like they’re about to hatch.

I’ll move the box with butterfly pupae to the balcony, hoping the butterflies will make it through the coming cold weeks. It’s the only chance. If they hatch too early there won’t be company by other specimen in the wild.

Conclusion: Looks like mainly chrysalises of moths that do well overwintering in the fridge. For eggs of hairstreaks or butterfly chrysalises the risk is high that they will develop too early. Note that the winter in Finland lasts much longer than in other regions.

Disguised on a flower bud

Exactly one week ago the first two caterpillars of the White-letter hairstreak hatched. Right after hatching, the tiny, black larvae had one mission: to find a flower bud on the elm twig and dig in.

It took about 4-5 days for them to appear again. From now on, it appears they don’t hide anymore inside of the flower bud but feed from outside. Nevertheless, due to their excellent disguise it doesn’t matter where or how they feed. They won’t be spotted that easily. Having them on the buds makes it much more fun to be able to search and also sight them.

Looking forward to seeing the caterpillars grow and reach more size. Raising hairstreaks, note this is my first time and species, differs quite a lot from raising other species.

Hatching Hairstreak

Last Friday night I was able to observe a step in the butterfly metamorphosis that I haven’t witnessed before: A caterpillar hatching.

During the afternoon I saw that some of the eggs in the raising box started to show tiny holes. They appeared smaller than those of empty egg shells which I sighted quite commonly while searching for eggs last autumn. In the evening I took a closer look with a magnifying glass. I saw something shiny inside the egg, and it was moving. I quickly realized it was the black head of the tiny caterpillar. Only moments later the caterpillar started to leave the egg. Just enough time to get the camera.

Due to poor light conditions and my camera equipment shooting close-ups it always a challenge. Nevertheless, here’s some photos of the first moments of a young caterpillar. Minutes after hatching, the tiny larva disappeared in a close-by leaf bud. This is where it will spend a couple days.

The Hairstreak Mission

One of my project for this butterfly season is raising the four Hairstreak species that overwinter as egg: the White-letter Hairstreak (Satyrium w-album), the Black Hairstreak (Satyrium pruni), the Brown Hairstreak (Thecla betulae) and the Purple Hairstreak (Neozephyrus quercus).

During the Easter weekend, when I returned from searching eggs of the Black Hairstreak I spotted a surprise. As I opened the “egg box” in our fridge’s vegetable compartment to put some fresh pruni ova to the collection I couldn’t believe my eyes. Despite of the temperature around only 4.5 degrees Celsius two of my three White-letter Hairstreak eggs hatched. The tiny caterpillars started their journey, a trip to find a flower bud of elm, and dig in. Two conditions saved my day. First, our neighbor has a couple old elm trees in their garden. Some twigs with flower buds hang nicely over the street. Second, spring arrived early this year in Finland. This means, the blossom buds were already slightly open.

I started to assemble a raising setup for the first species, the White-letter Hairstreak. The next day, I decided to also set up the arrangements for the species feeding on Bird Cherrry (Prunus padus). These are the Black and the Brown Hairstreak. Also Bird Cherry has recently started to sprout. Even though these two species have not hatched yet, it shouldn’t take too long for the caterpillars to start searching the closest bud, only to disappear again for a couple days.

Oak is not that far yet. I’ll therefor keep the eggs of the Purple Hairstreak in the cold until the flower buds of Oak start opening in nature. The phase to guide the tiny caterpillars into the buds deserves some attention. A couple photos of the setup can be found below.

The egg count for the Hairstreak mission is following: 3 eggs of the White-letter Hairstreak, 10 eggs of the Brown Hairstreak, 8 eggs of the Black Hairstreak and 16 eggs of the Purple Hairstreak. These eggs have been carefully collected in nature during autumn and winter. I’ll try to keep the natural timing for all species, so the adult butterflies can hatch around the same time as they’d in the wild. They will be released into nature after hatching.